Chapter 28 :: Glacier Caves and Obsidian Blocks

August 8th, 2014

It is the 3rd of Opal, in the mid-winter of 1207. For the second time in the fortress' history, the magma cannon of Roomcarnage has unleashed the volcanic fury of the dwarves upon the Ice of Ghosts and destroyed dozens of undead monsters. The taste of victory is as sweet as a masterfully crafted dwarven syrup roast, but the disciplined dwarves of the Momentous Dye steel themselves for the difficult times to come.

With each activation of the weapon, the fortress' surroundings grow stranger and stranger. The vast southwestern plateau was impressive, but proved to be relatively simple in spite of its great size. In contrast, this new northern formation is a monstrosity - a tangled mess of lavafalls still pouring over jagged obsidian cliffs, and dark glacial caves choked with elf blood snow and foul fog.

These caves in particular prove to be very interesting. Accessible only from the surface of the glacier, most end abruptly in dead ends.

Others form long, dark passages beneath the vast formation.

There are even a few hidden chambers, inaccessible to the undead, with only skylights open to the outer world.

With the lower hatches closed, there is no need for the pump stack itself to be powered. I go through and deactivate each pump.

A small army of thirsty, tired, and hungry dwarves return to their home in the deep.

For now, these dwarves may rest, and recover their strength. The volcano must refill, so that the weapon may be activated again - and in the meantime, I have a few jobs for the vampires.

To complete this task, the worshipers of Zon will need supplies from the inner fortress - stone bricks, to be precise. Of course, the vampires could make their own bricks, given enough time, but it is simply faster to transfer the supplies to them through the airlock. First, I toggle the doors, so that the outer portal is locked and the inner is open.

Then, I make a garbage dump in the airlock.

The bricks in question are currently stored in a stockpile near the weapon's access tunnels. They were stored here, so that construction of the weapon could progress with fewer difficulties. Each bin is full of bricks... it would be laborious to go through and individually designate each brick to be dumped.

There is a better way. First, I order the mass dumping of everything in these two rows of the stockpile.

Then, I go into the stocks menu, and remove the dump designation from all of the bins. Voila! The bricks will be dumped, while the valuable bins will be left in the fortress.

Before any brick-hauling dwarves arrive at the airlock, though, I notice some dwarves approaching, empty-handed. Ah, of course. They're going to collect the many copper buckets that still lay unused in the airlock.

Years back, I had constructed a device to melt the glacier by filling a reservoir below it with magma. I had hoped that the vampires might gather the water in these buckets and use it to encase zombies in ice... but the device was a failure, and now I have an excess of copper buckets. Oh well.

The dwarves haul the buckets back down into the fortress, passing quite close to the new northern formation.

Soon, dwarves arrive with obsidian bricks in hand.

One by one, the bricks are laid down in the airlock.

As the dwarves haul bricks and buckets to and fro, I look out over the cooling formation. The vast structure is full of raw and dangerous beauty, all dreamlike patterns and half-formed symmetries.

Certain structures seem to suggest a kind of crafted, deliberate placement, as if it were part of a vast city designed by a mad architect.

It's huge, and bizarre, and if the skies weren't constantly filled with freakish weather, I might consider having the dwarves colonize it. But no - the day the dwarves forsake their safe, warm home in the deep for this hellscape would be Roomcarnage's last.

I let the thought pass and return to work.

The dwarves continue hauling brick by brick. Each stone block must pass down through the fortress before being brought back up to the airlock, but I am unconcerned with the hauler's route.

The task will be done soon - in the meantime, I can surely find something else that needs my attention.

Remembering that I had attempted to start a glass industry, I check the stocks menu - and find that the fortress only has five units of sand!

All five are in the furniture stockpile - I guess the fortress ran out of bags.

More must be made, then.

In the meantime, I'll have the glassmakers use that sand to make some statues.

As well, the engravers can get to work carving more memorial slabs. The ghost problem is a perpetual one, but I can keep it more or less under control by having slabs engraved every few months or so.

As the dwarves continue working, I briefly glance over the northern formation. Most of the lava is beginning to dry up, but the deep central channel that runs directly from the volcano to the edge of the map is still full of molten rock. Eventually it will dry up as well, and leave a raw obsidian canyon, inaccessible to the rest of the map. Perhaps this will finally allow the dwarves of Roomcarnage to do trade with the mountainhome?

The infrastructure put in place years ago, during the pig trail fiber trousers crisis, serves the fortress well. In a matter of days, the work order for thirty cloth bags is complete. Wonderful.

It seems that the haulers are done with their work as well - a neat pile of over a hundred obsidian blocks now sits in the airlock. I toggle the doors, allowing the vampires to access the building materials.

Then I unforbid all the blocks by using the mass designation tool.

For this new addition to the fortress, I need a stairwell built.

The vampire Domas Firstfigures enters the airlock and grabs a block...

...then constructs the foundation of the new stairwell.

I order the next level of the stairwell built... well as a series of walls around its base...

...which will be of importance.

Both vampires get to work - even Rith Craftportent abandons her unceasing, years-long "meeting" with her attendant, the foul fog zombie diagnoser Dumat Sensesstakes.

As Rith works, Dumat follows her around like a trained dog follows its master... or, perhaps more appropriately, how an outpost liaison follows a busy mayor.

Not for the first time, I wonder who - or what - Dumat Sensesstakes really is, and contemplate his motivations. For years, Dumat has attended the vampire's meetings, exchanging dark words beneath a scarlet sky - to what end? What vile forces are represented by the foul fog zombie diagnoser? I let the question pass. In time, I'm sure, Dumat and Rith will provide an answer of their own.

The construction of the stairwell is nearly complete.

Of course, this raw ice bridge has got to go.

Domas Firstfigures deconstructs it quickly...

...making way for more improvements.

Of course, more walls need to be built as well. Although the staircase will eventually be surrounded by walls on all sides (requiring eight blocks), I start by ordering the construction of six walls at a time. Thus, there are no problems with the builders accessing the corner walls.

Once a layer has enough built to allow access to the corners above it, I order the next layer to be built.

In the midst of construction, spring arrives on the calendar, bringing with it a modest death.

A cavy's corpse is hardly the greatest of my worries, but it must be death with the same way as all other lifeless bodies.

The old garbage dump in the barracks is redesignated...

...and the cavy's body is ordered to be dumped.

With no shortage of idlers, a dwarf soon arrives to haul off the corpse.

The corpse is hauled through the southern farm area...

...and then tossed out of the hole in the barrack's southern wall.

Threat neutralized - this sort of procedure is quickly growing commonplace.

The memorial slabs are finished, so I have them placed in the dining hall next to the others. Things are starting to get crowded in here... it may be time for some expansion to the main fortress.

In time. The slabs are placed, and ghosts put to rest.

Before the last slab can be placed, however, a dwarven child standing on the other side of the dining hall is taken by a secretive mood!

The child predictably claims a craftsdwarf's workshop.

I'm not excited about children's moods... they always result in useless craft items.

In this case, a stone piccolo.

I'm not particularly impressed... but at least the child will grow up to be a legendary stonecrafter.

Outside, the stairwell's outer casing is nearly complete - I order the uppermost levels to be built.

A few moments later, a distressing announcement appears at the bottom of the screen.

Ugh, Reg Fencedsplatters, the perpetually unhappy militia commander. What could be the matter this time?

Unfortunately, the unhappy thoughts from drinking the same old booze and long patrol duty are more or less inevitable. The tattered clothing, however...

...ah. Yes.

And there's another unhappy dwarf... Sigun Armorflaxen, who is also suffering from the same injustice.

I can solve this situation by having the military uniforms replace civilian clothing, rather than being placed over it.

The warriors of Roomcarnage make straight for the clothing stockpile, replacing their tattered clothing with good armor.

Now THAT'S a uniform fit for a militia commander... more or less. Certainly copper is a modest material for any warrior to wear, but against the undead, it provides sufficient protection.

The entire military is now equipped with finely crafted suits of gleaming copper. Hopefully that does something to improve their mood.

While the vampires finish up the upper portion of the stairwell, I look back over the northern formation. The lava in the central canyon has sunk down a whole urist, but still bubbles with activity.

Meanwhile, the twisted plains of raw obsidian are covered with pools of cooling obsidian and dustings of frozen blood.

The hellscape cools and grows still, a lasting testament to the glorious power of the dwarves. Long after Roomcarnage has crumbled to its end, these structures will remain, proof that the Momentous Dye once wielded ultimate power in its never-ending war against the Ice of Ghosts.

But the dwarves would be fools to declare this a true victory. A small triumph, yes, but not an end to their struggles. For Roomcarnage is cursed - the freakish storms that cover the frozen landscape in elf blood snow did not begin until the dwarves first set pick to ice, back in 1201. Now, seven years later, they rail against their fate with the fiery blood of the earth, but Roomcarnage still holds nothing more for the dwarves than transient glory, profound misery, and eternal undeath.

For one dwarf, the struggle is already over.

It is a mercy.

The stairwell is complete, and construction can progress. I order a small square of the glacier to be paved over with obsidian bricks. Unfortunately, this is the largest section of flooring that can be laid down, with the obsidian bricks that have already been dumped into the airlock.

A shrewd observer will have already determined the purpose of this endeavor. When the weapon is activated for a third time, the magma will flow over this section of pavement, melting the glacier underneath. By then, a passage will have been dug, connecting the affected area to an empty cistern within the warm earth. The dwarves of Roomcarnage will secure a source of liquid water for the first time in the fortress' history.

More bricks are needed. I place a new stockpile next to the construction site, so that the vampires can haul out the leftovers. Once this construction is finished, more rock blocks can be brought up into the airlock, and the construction will continue unabated.

While this new project promises to secure a source of liquid water for the dwarves, the northern canyon holds new possibilities as well. Once the lava dries, it will be a secure and hidden route from the edge of the map to the base of the volcano.

Perhaps this hidden route will allow the merchants from the Playful Spattered Walls to safely traverse the zombie-infested lands surrounding the fortress. Perhaps a dwarf may be trained as a broker, and the wealth of Roomcarnage will be appraised. Perhaps the fortress will be raised to a barony, or a county, or a duchy... perhaps, in time, the fortress may even be declared the mountainhome, against all possibility.

Be calm, I remind myself. Hope leads to eagerness, and thus to careless mistakes - and in the end, all crumbles to dust.

It is the 23rd of Granite, in the early spring of 1208. Seven years have passed since the dwarves of the Momentous Dye carved out the first chambers beneath the ice volcano known as the Oily Furnace. Since then, countless tragedies and triumphs have been theirs - and yet, as I look out over the torn landscape of bloody ice and still-warm obsidian, I reflect that the greatest of both have yet to come.